Parallels : America, Nazi Germany, and Apartheid South Africa.
The way I see it — my personal experience with police states.
I guess my experience with Nazi Germany is second-hand. My late father was a Jewish journalist in Nazi Germany — one of three who had permission to report on the events. That is, until 1936, when the Gestapo came to arrest the staff of the Jewish newspaper he wrote for and sent them all to Auschwitz. Fortunately my late father was vacationing in Switzerland at the time, and his mother sent him a telegram telling him not to return.
When I speak about parallels between the events happening today, the events in apartheid South Africa where I lived, and America where I also lived, I refer to a series of articles my late father wrote about the events of those years. They covered the 30s in Germany — specifically Berlin where he was based. I later put them into book form “Memoirs of a Jewish Journalist in Nazi Germany.” It’s worth a read, if only to understand how similar the events are.
History does, indeed, repeat itself.
The characters are a little bit different, the events dressed in different uniforms, and the years separated by bouts of peace. But there is an essence that is the same, and that is what I’m drawing together here.
Both my parents were heavily political, my mother being a founder member of the Black Sash — an anti-apartheid women’s organisation founded in the 50s to combat apartheid.
The common denominator in all three countries was poverty for many and growing exclusion from conventional life. Scapegoats were required to explain why. In Germany, it was the Jews. In South Africa, it was the blacks. In America, it’s the African-Americans and the Latinos.
Politicians of a certain type understand the mood of the people, and they use that mood to warp it into a pathological hatred of anyone who is different. Yet it cannot happen in a vacuum. In Europe, the Jews had been hated for 2000 years because the Vatican said that they killed Jesus. In Africa, the British had a contempt for anyone who had a darker pigment in their skin. And in America, the same sort of hatred has also been passed down through the generations.
Journalists in Nazi Germany had to get approval before going to print. In South Africa, the press was banned from reporting on many things. And in America, the press is under pressure from Republicans and Trump.
When this kind of group hatred is already there, it is easy for evil politicians to play on it for their own benefit — power and money.
In Germany, the country experienced extreme austerity — the result of the 1918 war reparation payments to the British Empire. In South Africa, the Afrikaaners (the poor whites) were desperately poor as a result of losing the Boer war to the British. In America, about half the people are living below the poverty line, and the rest (apart from 5%) are living paycheck to paycheck.
Similar things begin to happen. People talk to each other. They begin to realize that they are not alone in their situation. They face increasing injustice from authorities. And gradually, they begin to speak up. When their voices are not heard, the violence begins.
“The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices — submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means in our power in defence of our people, our future, and our freedom”. Mandela
So it is that a combination of factors eventually produces leaders who take advantage of people’s dissatisfaction, and thus tyrannies are born. The leader justifies the imprisonment, exclusion, and murder of a section of society in order to ‘fix up’ what is wrong.
American Descent into Injustice and Thuggery
On the 1st April, 1933, my late father was beaten up by Brown Shirts as he attempted to enter the German law courts for his work as an attorney. As he tells it, he protected himself and one thug yelled “The Jew still fights with Jui Jitsu!”’According to the memoir he wrote, he said that the newspaper he worked for tried to warn the German people, specifically the Jews, but nobody was willing to listen. “We are Germans first — then Jews.” So it was that much of my father’s family died in Auschwitz.
And many South Africans died at the hands of police. From Steve Biko to the many who ‘fell’ from the John Vorster square police station in Johannesburg.
Now America, as a result of a complex set of culture, events, and increasing loss of status and money for many, goes through the same metamorphosis.
On Facebook, there’s a list doing the rounds. This is what it says:
I have privilege as a white person because I can do all of these things without thinking twice about it…
I can go birding (Christian Cooper)
I can go jogging (Amaud Arbery)
I can relax in the comfort of my own home (Bothem Sean and Atatiana Jefferson)
I can ask for help after being in a car crash (Jonathan Ferrell and Renisha McBride)
I can have a cellphone (Stephon Clark)
I can leave a party to get to safety (Jordan Edwards)
I can play loud music (Jordan Davis)
I can sell CD’s (Alton Sterling)
I can sleep (Aiyana Jones)
I can walk from the corner store (Mike Brown)
I can play cops and robbers (Tamir Rice)
I can go to church (Charleston 9)
I can walk home with Skittles (Trayvon Martin)
I can hold a hair brush while leaving my own bachelor party (Sean Bell)
I can party on New Years (Oscar Grant)
I can get a normal traffic ticket (Sandra Bland).
I can lawfully carry a weapon (Philando Castile)
I can break down on a public road with car problems (Corey Jones)
I can shop at Walmart (John Crawford)
I can have a disabled vehicle (Terrence Crutcher)
I can read a book in my own car (Keith Scott)
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (Clifford Glover)
I can decorate for a party (Claude Reese)
I can ask a cop a question (Randy Evans)
I can cash a check in peace (Yvonne Smallwood)
I can take out my wallet (Amadou Diallo)
I can run (Walter Scott).
I can breathe (Eric Garner)
I can live (Freddie Gray)
It’s a list of the innocent people who have died as a result of police shooting them or killing them in some way — simply because they were black.
America also puts children in cages because they are Latinos. And America has the highest number of people in prison in the world. This is not because Americans have stricter laws as some would have you believe. It is because there is no justice in America, just as there was no justice in pre-war Germany, and there was no justice in apartheid South Africa.
Justice, when it is only for some is not justice at all.
Justice when it is only for some is not justice at all.
America is a Step Away From Following in the Footsteps of the Most Hated Regimes on Earth
It is not a crazy idea that Donald Trump, a full blown psychopathic moron, will declare martial law and attempt to prevent the election in November, 2020.
There are, after all, tens of thousands of people dying from a virus, and there are riots in the streets. His re-election is not certain, and that is all he is concerned about. To boot, he is surrounded by yes-men. He will do whatever it takes to maintain power.
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As Hannah Arendt so famously revealed about the banality of evil when she was trying to ask Germans why they went along with Hitler. The stock reply was “I was only doing my job.”
I do not like Joe Biden. Many of us don’t. As a fully fledged born and bred (since 1966) Progressive, there are other choices I would have made. But this is not the time to argue about the manipulation of the electoral system by both political parties.
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